Picking a theme for your WordPress blog can be overwhelming. There are literally thousands and thousands of them out there. But it is one of the most important decisions you will make for your blog.
Because, at some point you will want to change themes. I have done this several times myself.
But we all have limited resources—money and time—so getting it right the first time out will give you something you can live with for a good period of time.
Changing themes can be fairly simple in some cases. In others it’s a real pain in the butt because you have to do a complete redesign.
To help you, here are five things you should think about when choosing a theme.
1. Out of the Box vs. Framework
This one is huge. I tell my clients, when you are looking at the theme, can you see your blog in the basic layout? What I mean are the boxed areas of the homepage. These are often ‘widgetized’ areas, which means that the content you see in that top box,—for example, a slider— is a widget or plugin. So if you can imagine presenting your content in the layout you see, you are good to go.
Now if instead you say, I want four columns across instead of three, well, then you are looking at either customizations or a framework theme that you can build from the ground up. Some are easier than others (they require little or no knowledge of code) but still, you will be starting from scratch.
2. Simple vs. Magazine Style
This relates back to #1. In my eyes, there are basically two generic homepage layouts for a blog. One is simple: a hierarchy of posts. The second, a more component style page, is similar to a magazine. You are pulling in content from different categories and displaying a specific number of posts from those categories.
So with this one, you need to decide what will work best for your blog. What experience do you want your visitor to have when they land on the homepage? And where do you want them to go from there?
3. Custom Sidebars
I’ve talked about this in an earlier post, but let’s revisit it from the perspective of choosing a theme.
When you create your blog, most themes have a single sidebar that is used on every page. But there are now themes that allow you to have custom sidebars on specific pages, posts and even categories. This allows you to create an experience for the reader that doesn’t distract them from the content of the page.
For example, you can place those affiliate ads on just the pages with content that relates to and complements them – very useful.
4. Colors, Fonts, and All Those Other Details
Keep in mind how much customization you really need to do to your site. Is it important for you to be able to easily change background colors, your header, fonts styles and sizes, etc.? If so, you might want a theme that allows you to do this without knowing any code. (Some themes require you to know and understand CSS —Cascade Styling Sheets).
If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, go to your dashboard > appearances > editor and click on the bottom left hand file called “stylesheet”.
Whatever pops into the editor window will show you what you will be dealing with. If you are not experienced, don’t mess with it. A simple single character error could mess up something critical on your site. This brings me to #5.
5. Frameworks vs. Child themes vs. The Others
With frameworks, you are building your site from the ground up. Child themes work with frameworks. Why bring this up? If you were to take your basic theme, customize its CSS file, and maybe some of the php files, if that theme was to ever update, all of your customizations would get overwritten.
But with a child theme, you can customize it to your heart’s content and only the parent theme will be updated. Sweet. Also, some themes have a custom CSS file, which is also a good option.
Now if this is all too technical for you, relax. Find a good child theme with some nice options and a layout you can live with and you will be good to go.
So these are some things to consider when it comes to the design of your new blog. But don’t’ get bogged down in this part of it.
Yes, you want your blog to look good and be easy to read and navigate. But in the end, content will be its biggest seller. And whatever you do, don’t spend hours worrying about a slight font style change or whether you can have those rounded corners you wanted. Just move on.
Because in the end, I don’t think it matters as much to your visitors as it might to you.
How about you? What are your design challenges when it comes to finding and choosing a theme?